Of all the Trees that are in the Wood: There is holly and ivy of course, and very lovely they are too. But now, with the leaves blown away, look up and appreciate the structure of deciduous trees; oaks exposing their elbow shaped branches and those artificial, elegant structures of pleached limes showing a warm red young growth. Favourites for bark colour include Betula albosinensis which has a faint touch of icing pink, the more usual Betula utilis var. jacquemontii is bone white. The best glossy red-brown is shown by Prunus serrula (Tibetan cherry). Beautiful Arbutus menziesii (Madrona) has a glorious warm ochre peeling bark.
Deck the Halls: Gather and bring into the house, dried flower heads of hydrangea, alliums and grasses, it makes a change from the above mentioned evergreens.
Deep and Crisp and Even: Shake the snow off shrubs and trees, the weight can snap branches of left to freeze – a quick way to turn yourself into a walking snowman, should you stand underneath.
O Christmas Tree: As a garden designer I would like to put in a request: please don’t buy a christmas tree complete with roots in order to plant it out in the garden after Christmas – unless your live in a forest. Be it fir, pine or spruce it will grow quite quickly into a very large and ugly tree. It is perfectly acceptable from an environmental point of view to buy a freshly cut tree, decorate it, love it and then put it out for recycling on 6th January.
In the Bleak Midwinter: There’s no feeling of urgency, but a few jobs can be done during December if weather allows. Carry on mulching as long the ground isn’t frozen. Remember to air the greenhouse on mild days. Make a start on cutting evergreen hedges. Prune grape vines.
Whence is that goodly fragrance flowing? (yes, this is a carol) Mahonia japonica is the flower of choice for any insects venturing out this December. Blue tits rather like it too.